Thursday, September 01, 2016

Speaking Up

This post serves to do several things: share my personal reflections from Northwest Yearly Meeting 2016 Annual Sessions, call attention to misuse of voices speaking on behalf of others, invite people to read the Faith and Practice and know what they agreed to support, and question the use of social media during business meetings.  

I walked into the second Friends college dining hall just days after leaving the previous one.  It took me a minute to realize what I was feeling and then it hit me - I could sit at any table WITHOUT fear for my beliefs.  My heart opened to feelings of life, peace, excitement, and unity!  I was among like-minded Friends and it was the food my soul needed.  

In order for you to understand what a life-giving experience that was for me, you have to feel the constraints I had felt less than a week prior.  My heart was in a vice that tightened with each passing hour.  Hours where I listened to Friends speak their peace about the Elder's decision to release West Hills Friends Church (WHFC).  Hours with an upset stomach and head hurting over the tension and turmoil among my church family.  

It was clear from the first meeting that there was not a fair representation of our yearly meeting present.  This is one of the hardships of having a yearly meeting span three states with 400+ miles to travel to attend these annual sessions.  This is the reason we have the Council of the Representatives - "members of local faith communities who have been chosen, prayerfully, on the basis of spiritual maturity, respected judgment, and acceptance of Friends beliefs and procedures as set forth in this book of Faith and Practice" (NWYM Faith and Practice, 2011, p. 41).  These representatives of the local meetings provide equality throughout the entire yearly meeting; preventing meetings closer to the meetings to have a louder voice.  

Read the Faith and Practice!  A requirement of being a representative is, "acceptance of Friends beliefs and procedures as set forth in this book of Faith and Practice" (p. 41).  You appear ignorant when you stand and speak things that are contrary to the description - and I know you are NOT ignorant!  You are intelligent and want to speak factually so make sure you are.  It is easier to hear what you are saying when what you say is true.  

One thing that appalled me was how many of the representatives, of which I am one, were ill-informed of what the representatives "job" was!  They spoke of things that were not true and when I spoke to them personally, the responses varied from "I guess I need to read that" to "I did not know that is what I agreed to,"  

Read the job description before agreeing to it.  Churches - make sure the people you appoint meet the requirements!  

Another appalling thing was how many people stood and spoke on behalf of an entire group but they were not that group's representative nor had they taken the time to speak to other people in that group.  For example, youth would stand and say that "the youth...." and when I asked other youth including my children if there had been any discussions regarding this, they said no.  In reality, the person speaking was only reiterating what they and their like minded friends talked about; this is not representation or making sure each person has a voice.  It is misleading to people to say a group feels or believes something when you have only addressed a specific population of that group.  I am not picking on youth here.  Young adults stood and said that since they had been involved in youth ministries they felt led to share what they had learned from youth.  Later, I asked these people if they had attended any camps in Idaho and the answer was "no."  

Same thing with young adults.  Young adults would stand and speak as if they were representing an entire population!  An Idaho pastor, also a young adult, stood and testified, "We don't fit the narrative that younger minorities would leave the yearly meeting if WHFC is released."  Idaho has an active young adult group who meets and studies the Bible together.  They did pages worth of discernment and in the end got signatures affirming their statement of affirmation of the Elder's decision.  This group has a representative and she was there.  She was allowed 3 minutes to speak on behalf of this entire group and when she ran out of time, there was not another Idaho young adult to stand and continue the dialogue - something Oregon young adults did not face.  They live close enough they can easily attend and having lopsided representation does not benefit our yearly meeting.  It hurts it.  

Do not speak for other people! Unless you are an official representative for a specific group, PLEASE stop speaking on other people's behalf!  

An extremely disturbing phenomenon this year was the role social media played in our business meetings.  People, mainly from the Newberg area, tweeted (one live tweeted) what they wanted people to hear.  This was grossly misrepresented and makes me sick to think that while I was doing my best to listen to others and more importantly, the Holy Spirit, people were busy tweeting and allowing their bias to reflect what was said.  

Example:  Eric M. tweeted that Julie P, clerk of WHFC, stood and said she had never felt more loved than she had this past year.  End of tweet.  What he never followed up with was what she said next; which was most pertinent to the conversation at hand, "If we want people to honor the process we went through then we need to honor their (the Elder's) process.  I AFFIRM THEIR DECISION!"  Please just sit on that for a minute.  This was a monumental testimony of trusting our elders and honoring the process they went through for years.  

If you search #nwym2016 you will find many tweets.  On my 8 hour drive home I scrolled the feed and was dismayed and offended by the distorted slant a member of the Administrative Council, Eric M., took on our meeting.  Of these many tweets, you will find some from me.  One voice on twitter among many different voices crying out for people to realize that the twitter feed is NOT a representation of what took place this year.  In fact, one tweet was particularly offensive:

It took me a minute to realize I was being labeled homophobic!  I looked up the definition in Merriam Webster, just to be sure I really did know what it meant (I did): "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals."

I was (and am) offended that my affirming the EIGHT YEAR process the Elders went through, walking along side WHFC, and that I believed they followed the procedures set forth in the Faith and Practice, would make me homophobic!  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I have good friends and family that I love dearly who are gay.  This decision was not about changing our faith and practice, it was about confirming the Elders followed procedures and did not do anything outside of faith and practice in releasing WHFC to minister as they feel led and called to; which happens to be outside the parameters set in our Faith and Practice.  Until such time as that changes, I believe our Elders acted in the best interest of both parties, WHFC and NWYM, by releasing WHFC to minister and calling NWYM to do the hard work that is before us; and I do not believe this makes me homophobic and I refuse to be labeled one.  

Social media did not reflect the diversity in our yearly meeting.    

For a different perspective than mine, Brandon Baker shared his reflections here. While he is grateful for the live tweets, I am not.  I feel they were biased and misrepresented what happened.  Only quotes that aligned with what he wanted portrayed were used and I could not find one quote from the number of people who stood and affirmed the elder's decision.  

Brandon is one of the only ones who asked me to share my reflections from yearly meeting - after he saw my tweets.  Thank you, Brandon.  I hear the request to speak up but in the past when I have done so, I leave the conversation feeling attacked and belittled for sharing.  But I will speak up.  I will stand up.  I will speak for myself and not allow others to speak on my behalf without my permission.  I do not have to be strong because 
"He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV).  

If you comment, be respectful.  I maintain the right to delete any comment I perceive as rude or offensive so please keep that in mind should you chose to comment.  Thank you.



  1. I don't think this is a helpful post

    1. Eric is this not helpful because you got called out or because it does not reflect your beliefs? Our entire yearly meeting is hurting right now no matter which "side" they agree with. I think everyone has the right (which you do very freely) to express their thoughts and feelings. I think it is extremely helpful to hear ever side of this heart breaking situation in our yearly meeting.


    2. Being called out isn't a problem. I think that's both warranted and helpful. Otherwise, I never see my own blind spots. And I agree with you: our entire yearly meeting is hurting right now. The first part that isn't helpful is the part that suggests that the clerk made an error in judgment in allowing non-reps to speak from the floor. The second part that isn't helpful is the suggestion that some reps are good and other reps are bad.

    3. Eric, I re-read my post and am not seeing what you are referring to that I thought non-reps should not speak. I said they should not speak on behalf of others, of which they are NOT a rep. They should only speak for themselves, not others. I was trying to be so careful to not be offensive regarding reps, which is why I said they are intelligent! I actually stated the church holds the responsibility in making sure their reps understand what their duties are and yes, I think every rep should read the F & P, especially if they are going to reference it as a defense for something they are saying. That's just good business in any situation, right? I never meant to imply some reps were better reps than others - just that some are more informed than others. That is different in my mind.

  2. How is this post not helpful? This post is about what Joy observed, felt and experienced at Yearly Meeting. Others with contrary views write about what they observe, feel and experience too. -Denae

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks, Denae. I appreciate your voice. Joy's feelings are relevant and warranted. Some of her judgments about who should speak and who shouldn't and how - that's what I'm questioning.

  3. Mom,
    Thank you for being brave and sharing your experience. I am proud of you.

  4. Joy, I am grateful that you have taken the time in thought and prayer to finally put your thoughts to print. I am honored by your care, concern and willingness to speak out and share your heart and your process of discernment in expressing yourself with regards to the situation currently crippling our Yearly Meeting. I will continue to pray and discern as we the journey through this difficult time and what my role looks like in our Yearly Meeting. Much love and support.
    The Hubby.

  5. Dear Joy: This is an important post, and I'm very glad you wrote it.

    We need to be careful of our words and clear who we speak for. We need to be careful with our use of social media, especially during meetings for worship (which includes biz mtgs) and it’s long past time we stopped talking AT people and started talking TO one another. And we need a good, well-informed, honest (and fearless!) discussion of our F&P.

    There's so MUCH I want to say about this blog post, but let's do it in person! Maybe at the Women's Retreat...?! Again, THANKS for being fearless.

    [I see my comment will show up as "Unknown"; it's me, Julie Peyton.]

    1. I always enjoy talking with you. I think a "book study" using the F & P would be challenging delightful and terrifying! HA! Thanks for your ongoing encouragement to wrestle through things and for being my friend. See you soon!

  6. Hi Joy, Thanks for sharing your perspective and experience of the NWYM annual sessions. What you've shared here and on twitter has given me a greater perspective of the diversity in our YM.

    I definitely resonate with your thoughts on the challenge of capturing the perspective of many people across a large geographic area when our annual sessions are consistently held in one single location (Newberg). I would very much like us to consider how rotating the region in which our YM annual sessions are held could improve our sense of common identity and equitable representation. At the very least, it would give those of us in the NW corner of Oregon a sense of what it is like to be asked to take time away from our homes, families, and work to be a part of the annual sessions.

    Thanks again for sharing your perspective.


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